Well, I hate to say I told you so, but, this is NBC we're talking about. A couple of days ago I posted a piece in our members' section detailing how NBC was already screwing up the roll-out of its shiny new toy, Megyn Kelly. Since the Peacock never met a talent transition that it couldn't incompetently turn into a tits-up on-air melodrama, the incoming Kelly, it was reported, was slated to take over either the third or fourth hour of the Today show. The thing is, whichever hour Kelly muscled her way into, the same two people would be replaced: Tamron Hall and Al Roker, of Today's currently number-one-rated third hour. In other words, what you'd have is not one but two black anchors being replaced by possibly the whitest woman on the planet. That's a recipe for a PR disaster.
As of last week, despite rumors that the move would send her packing, NBC was adamant that Tamron Hall would be staying put at the network. Unfortunately for NBC and its audience, Hall, given that she's in possession of at least a modicum of pride, had other plans. With her contract up at the end of the month, she announced that she's leaving the network on Wednesday. Her last day on-air was Tuesday, meaning that she didn't get an official sign-off, which is standard NBC policy after Ann Curry broke down during her last day on Today and basically torpedoed the show's ratings for the next year or so, as the audience revolted. Hall's been gracious behind the scenes, but make no mistake: her exit probably isn't great news for NBC.
Sure, the audience that loves Hall -- and she's been damn popular at the network -- was deprived of seeing her get emotional or just plain be grateful and classy on national television as she walked off into the sunset, but what happened with Ann Curry may still apply here. As I said a couple of days ago, Twitter, Facebook, and various media watchers have all taken notice of NBC's decision to allow Roker and Hall to be the particular people Kelly bum rushes. You're talking about a conservative white woman who's made questionable statements about race in the past replacing a black duo that just celebrated its seventh week straight being at the top of the ratings pile.
Kelly is already going to be radioactive to a certain segment of the audience; she's a divisive presence and it remains to be seen whether her success can translate beyond Fox News. But now she enters in what could be the shadow of a popular black anchor she pushed aside. That puts her behind the 8-ball right off the bat. The only question is how long Hall's shadow will be, whether it'll extend to the point that Kelly's non-compete at Fox News finally ends and she takes a seat at NBC. Either way, though, none of this had to happen. NBC could've handled this delicately and competently. But as we've seen with Leno and Conan, Ann Curry, and David Gregory, that's apparently too much to ask from them.